Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Resolutions for 2012

2011 didn't really treat me as well as I hoped it did. There were memorable moments for sure, but on the whole it pales in comparison to previous years. The highs included completing 3 marathons in a single year, 2 overseas holidays, and miscellaneous accomplishments both in work and personal aspirations. But luck wise I've missed out on several opportunities, and perhaps lost out in other relevant areas as well. And for the first time in my life I lost my handphone.

In a way, I kinda knew this year won't be as great since my praying at the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, where my omikuji turns out to be a bad luck one. But from another perspective, these are just minor set backs, nothing drastic nor life changing. And I ought to be thankful, both to friends and family who have been close this past year. Friends have made work bearable, and I'm glad to have companions who are so supportive. So, like the other years I shall try to lay out my new year's resolutions for 2012.

1. Achieve higher job satisfaction. Fresh start in a fresh appointment, so I'm hoping to make changes at work and to contribute back to the organisation in a new way.

2. Improve personal fitness. Been a negative year for me. Sluggish results in both physical fitness and marathon timings. Got my personal best and worst in the same year, but I'll do better in 2012. Didn't managed to get IPPT gold despite repeated attempts, but I have myself to blame for this. I'll do better next time.

3. Getting results in studies. So far my GPA's still pretty good but I hate myself for not doing better sometimes. I've been so careless in exams I need to resist the urge to bang my head on the wall. Halfway through, so hopefully I'll be able to do just as well for the remaining modules.

4. Self improvement plans. Aside from the part time studies, I need to read and write more. Even blogging counts, as it helps to encapsulate my ideas into words. I've just ordered more books, some related to work, so hopefully I can find time to read and reflect more.

5. Finding a new place. We've decided to move to a new home, hopefully a bigger one and nearer to my in-laws. It's not easy finding a suitable place, but I'm hoping we achieve this next year and I can finally shift all my stuff into a larger area.

6. Lastly and most importantly, to be a better father, son, and father for the family. I'm not really a great person to live with. I know that and it's hard to change, but I'll try to do it for my family's sake. Hopefully work allows me more time to be with Mabel and Rena, whom I'll try my best to groom and shape her for challenges up ahead.

That's it, 6 resolutions to be succinct and hopefully achievable. I urge all friends who are reading this to also try and articulate your resolutions into something that can be archived, such as a blog or even on your Facebook note. With that, I wish everyone a happy new year, and may all your wishes be fulfilled in the upcoming year. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

MW3 and me

2 blog entries for nearly 2 months and now I have 3 in as many days. Well I just had to share this since it doesn't happen too often. As a Modern Warfare 3 player on the Playstation 3, I've been playing the multiplayer/Spec Op modes quite frequently during this holiday break. For those of you not familiar with the game, it's one of the best sellers this Christmas season. It may not be the best FPS around since Battlefield 3 seems to be the better title in most game reviews and comparisons, but still I'm too familiar and comfortable with the franchise to try something totally new. I'll still get BF3 one day though.

Back to the game. I'm not really a good player on multiplayer. I run and gun a lot, hoping to meet unsuspecting players behind their backs and give them a good spray from my assault rifle. Usually my kill streaks peaks at around 3 or 4 at max, while most of the time I just get the death streak rewards instead. Usually when I play, I seem to face asian opponents a lot. I've heard players from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore. The rest of the players would usually be from America. I usually mute the HK players cause I can't really stand cantonese chatting while I run around the maps. I'd mute all Singaporean players due to the excessive hokkien swearing too. I have a headset but I'd prefer not to talk.

And the reason for this post is that 2 days ago, in an amazing stroke of luck, I managed to get a 5.0 Kill-Death ratio. That's incredible for someone who has an average of 0.765 from 20 hours of online gameplay. Somehow, the new setup and equipment's done me a favor. I now carry 2 primary weapons, one of them a riot shield, which I hardly use but it helps to provide cover for my (usually exposed) back. I switched to another assault rifle that fires 3 round bursts, and it's helped my accuracy a great deal. I try to play smart too (try), since in this new mode called Drop Zone most other players rush into a designated hot area without much hesitation and I can hide in a corner to ambush them within the kill zone. I racked up a 5.0 KD ratio, and JUST had to upload the clip to youtube. Too bad it can only record 30 second clips. Well, behold my once-in-a-life-time achievement via the video above. Hey it's nothing great compared to other players but for me it's stunning enough for a blog entry :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Needs and Wants

A conversation with a co-worker left an indelible impression in my mind since its inception a few months ago. The topic started off as usual, complaining about the rising costs of living in Singapore, and how prudent we as parents should aim to be.

We discussed about how to save money, and of course how to manage the family's cheque books and other finances. According to her, she never buys anything unnecessary for her children, toys included. Instead, the family's income is focused on "assets". Things that make more money for you. In her perspective, anything that doesn't increase in value over time isn't worth investing in.

Naturally, this is not part of my code in life. While u do agree that we need to be prudent and watch over how we spend our hard earned money, I disagree on her view of tagging a value to everything on your purchase list. To me, and perhaps especially me, since I buy so many games and toys, which have zero value in fact and takes up so much space, there is more than monetary value when I look at the things I buy.

I'd admit I feel that sometimes I'm over doing it, when I eventually grow out of the figures or games. But from another perspective, having what I fancy makes me happy at the point in time. And that's something you can't have any other day. I'm not talking about eternal happiness that's for sure, but it's the little things that count. Be it games for me, or expensive camera gadgets for my other friends. Having something you WANT, and working hard to earn it, by itself is already an accomplishment through the sense of satisfaction.

It may not be a new private apartment or a fancy new ride, but to me, having a new Kamen Rider or Ultraman figure gives me the same joy. It may be valueless to the rest of the world, but it defines who I am, what I like, and how I want to live.

Well, I'm happy to be where I am and it's a season to be thankful too. If there's a lesson to share, it's not to worry too much about the future, and cherish the present. Don't let the very things that shape and define you, change you. And like they say, you were born penniless and you're going to go the same way. Happy new year my friends!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hong Kong 2011

In what seems to be the longest hiatus this particular blog has taken, I've neglected any forms of updates for nearly two months. And I used to update this on a weekly basis too. It's not that I've been terribly busy, but just bitten by the lazy bug. Well, no more updates on vacations broken down onto a daily format that's for sure. So for this time, I figure one single video would do the trick. 

Following our Tokyo trip earlier this year, the 3 of us went for our year end vacation to Hong Kong this time. 2 Disneyland's in a year can cause tremendous fatigue, that I can tell you. Well at least on the father side of the house. Still, Rena had a great time as far as I could tell. While I've had my fair share of Mickey's and Minnies, Mabel and Rena can't seem to stop hunting them down for photos. Like how I told Mabel, next year I'm bring her to a Kamen Rider museum instead. Haha, enjoy the video while I prepare for my obligatory year end blog post inclusive of new year resolutions. Cya!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mid life crisis?

A close friend recently deduced that my like for running these days had something to do with me undergoing a change. Apparently, research have shown that men in their early thirties tend to reach a point in life where frustration sets in, and they tend to lose direction in both work and family related matters. Termed as the mid life crisis, it's been proven that to certain extent all men go through this phase in life. Naturally, I brushed this notion aside, until I realized that the truth in it may be closer than I initially expected.

During the conversation, I attributed my like for running with the need to set goals for myself. Yes, short term ones, but goals nonetheless. I thought that perhaps the mid term crisis in my context referred to my need to constantly have something to look forward to. Without anything to strive towards, life can be pretty uninspiring and even empty. That's why continuous education is important, well at least for me, as well as other skills and experiences which I believe that one should go though in life. Life is too short to miss out on opportunities and experiences which we can't go through once we progress beyond certain ages.

Time doesn't slow down for anyone, and as each chapter of one's life comes to a close, do we question what we have achieved with the time that has been blessed upon us? One of the reasons I like to run is that I feel I can think better about such questions after each run. It's like a time for reflection, for me to gauge how I'm doing in life, and how I can influence the future.

I'll end off by saying that a personal vision statement really helps a lot. Mine's constantly providing me directions, like a beacon of light sometimes. Hopefully, you can also find time to carefully think about it and articulate it clearly, if you haven't done so already.

I haven't been writing much recently, but I'll try to post more often! :)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Run beyond your limit. 限界まで走れ!

To be honest, I've always hated running. Reason? I've never been good in it. I hated playing police and thief as a kid because I always failed trying to catch up with the rest. I've never gotten NAPFA Gold in school, nor IPPT Gold till after I got commissioned as an officer. It took me another 9 years for me to achieve Gold again, which was only possible because I had progressed to another CAT level and my requirements went down. Yeah I sucked.

For the longest time, I thought that completing a mathon was next to mission impossible. Until I realised that many people who looked like they would have trouble passing their 2.4km run started wearing the 42km marathon finisher tees. If they could do it, so can I. And so I signed up for the Standard Chartered Marathon back in 2009. And I never looked back.

Since, I've started joining many runs, looking to complete it for the experience and a souvenir in the form of a medal. It's pretty fun, signing up for events, meeting friends old and new during the runs. So far the most memorable and fun one has to be the Tokyo Marathon, which I've made photo books and videos from the shots I bought online. You can argue that it's a pretty expensive hobby but I beg to differ. I don't really have any nasty habits (apart from online shopping for figures from Japan), and on average I only attend one event per month.

I've already met my quota of 10 medals this year, but that's not stopping me from going for more. Well, I need the exercise to compensate for all the junk food anyway. For those who are seeking information on the runs, feel free to join me for upcoming events! Ending off with two recent videos of random Rena dances. :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thanks for the memories 22nd TSWC

For the past 4 weeks, we were involved in a series of lectures, presentations, lots of reading, talking, playing ultimate frisbee, and most importantly, getting to know each other better. The TSWC ended as fast as it started, and before you know it, all of us are going back to our respective work as we bid farewell to one another.
I've always thought that courses in the organisation were pretty transactional. In a way, we could always work effectively as a team to meet our objectives, but it is hard to establish that relationship once the course is over. Still, personally I've enjoyed this particular course a lot, largely due to my peers. Not just in my syndicate, but the entire course. The synergy that we shared was incredible. It's been a great month, and hopefully we can still keep in touch through FB. Once again, thanks for the memories!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roots & Wings

A few weeks ago while on a short course I was tasked to give a impromptu presentation on this question: "What value do you think is the most important to give your children?" I didn't really had much time to ponder over it, but naturally I remembered this phrase a senior officer once told me. He said, the best gifts that a parent can ever give his children were roots and wings.

I shared this with my course mates and how it affected me and influenced my thinking, especially since I myself am a father now. Having children doesn't only mean reaching the next chapter or stage in life. To me, I believe that our children inherit more than our belongings or assets. They inherit our dreams, ambitions, beliefs, and our name. The blood that flows in our veins are one and the same. Whatever I dreamed of but did not have the chance to complete or even attempt, I will give my daughter the opportunity to choose so. Even if I don't do it myself, I will share the same level of satisfaction if my children can reach my goals. Of course, I don't mean forcing them to do things they don't enjoy doing.

By roots, it refers to the grounding that we give our children. They must be rooted in core values, virtues, and proper moral upbringing. Instead of focusing solely on skills and shaping their talents, they must be nurtured through character development. By giving them wings, we are giving them the freedom to soar as high as their potential takes them, and giving them the proper environments to grow and learn in. What they achieve and how far it takes them is entirely up to their own dedication and effort put in.

I remember these words dearly and hold them close to my heart whenever I think about Rena's education and how to impart her with the right values. Hopefully it makes sense to whoever's reading this as well.  By the way here's a video clip I made to celebrate me and Mabel's 7th wedding anniversary. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Transformers: Dark of The Moon after thoughts

Been so long since I've last blogged! Not that I've been extremely busy or anything, but I didn't really have anything too spectacular to share nor shout about. Nothing I needed to get off the chest either, so I've just been basking in my own laziness. Until now, of course. I've been tweeting a lot less as well, so much so that I feel I'm about to quit it altogether. Still pretty active on Facebook though.

The intent of this post isn't a usual full fledged movie review, but just a summary of my feelings and thoughts on the latest Transformers sequel. Spoilers abound, so don't go any further unless you've seen the movie.

I've been a Transformers fan before I even went to school, so they hold a pretty special place in my heart. Some of my most precious childhood memories involve begging my mum for an Optimus Prime toy. Yes, having one was an essential part of growing up in the 80s. My fandom revolved around the G1 series, as well as the Japanese spinoffs from the Headmasters saga to the Victory series. I cried like a baby when Optimus Prime died in Victory. Sure he resurrected as Victory Leo but that wasn't good enough. Anyway, I just want to say I've always been a Transformers fan.

On the previous 2 movies, I can't say I'm a big fan of the Hollywood conversion. Firstly, I've got a big problem with the designs of the robots. I understand the need to give them the ability to express emotions, but they over did it in terms of humanifying the Transformers. I didn't like Bumble Bee's look, nor that of many others. The only two that I really liked were Prime and Ironhide. I attribute this to the fact that I'm a fan of the Japanese style design of mecha, and perhaps I yearned for the designs to be simpler, and more old school. I'll take the classic designs over the Hollywood version anytime.

I found the first movie ok. It wasn't too bad, but perhaps could have been better if the action wasn't that messy. I absolutely hated the sequel, Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen. Lots of reasons, but mainly due to the stereo typical nature of the designs of some of the characters nature, and it made me sick. I hated Mudflap and Skids to the core. You know, the Gremlin Autobot twins. I hated Sam's parents, who were annoying as hell. I couldn't remember movie characters more annoying than them, and I swear their sole purpose in the movie was to be annoying so that people will want to look forward to the fighting scenes. See. There's too many things to hate in the last one. There were a few redeeming factors, such as Jetfire's combination with Prime at the finale. That was cool, but I still didn't get the design of Jetfire as an aging robot. What's up with all the bearded characters? I'm looking at you Sentinel Prime.

Alright, on the main topic. Believe it or not this was actually my first 3D movie. Yes, I belong to the minority of the people who hasn't seen Avatar in 3D, or anything since the advent of having images pop out from the screen. I've always wondered how short sighted people enjoy 3D movies without the need for contact lenses, but I guess I don't have that problem now. Anyways, it was quite an experience for me. It was all cool and stuff, but I had a headache halfway through and wondered whether it was actually more satisfying to watch the obsolete 2D version instead.

Like I mentioned earlier, this isn't a review. Just my personal comments. On the whole, I enjoyed the movie much more than its predecessor. But that isn't speaking a lot. When it comes to action flicks, Michael Bay still reigns in terms of explosions, collisions, and chaos. Some of the action scenes in the movie were just sick. I especially liked the one scene where Bee transformed with Sam still inside. Cool. Another one worth mentioning is where Prime kicked ass with his flight suit. Though, I was pretty disappointed not to see his trailer transform and merged with him. I was totally expected that to happen since he did mention he needed his trailer, and hell there were toys with a freakin' transforming trailer.

On to the bad parts: everything with the humans. Yes, I actually believe that all the human characters were in a contest to see who can be the most annoying. Even Sam is annoying. I haven't been a fan of Megan Fox, but I don't see why there is a need to get a replacement girl friend for him in the form of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. It falls beyond my level of comprehension, that a jobless bloke like Sam is able to get someone as rich or hot. It's easier for me to even believe in extra-terrestrial mechanical beings disguised as my toaster hiding in my kitchen than to see how Sam is that attractive. My conclusion: they needed a hot ass for that opening shot. In 3D no less.

I have major problems with the rest of the human characters as well. Were they included specifically to piss viewers off? I would gladly pay double the movie ticket fees just to see Megatron blow up Sam's parents. It's sad when they give good actors like John Malkovich, John Turturro, and Patrick Demsey goofy roles when their roles could have been more serious. And what's up with the Wang guy? More ethic stereotyping? Big thumbs down for me in terms of making the humans the stars of the movie instead of the title characters. Remove them, shift the focus to the robots, and it will be a much better movie.

Some other comments I have: I liked the fact that Soundwave and Laserbeak are together, albeit without the cassette tape mechanism. I would have liked Soundwave to speak more like the classic version though. Shockwave is much cooler here than the original cartoon though. I also like the fact that they brought the Space Bridge concept back. RIP to Ironhide and Starscream, but their death scenes were magnificent, worthy of their presence in the movie. Sentinel Prime's betrayal was great too, but like Jetfire, I didn't like the facial hair bit. On this point why did we have balding Autobots too? Salute to Soundwave for blasting that guy to bits. No respect for Megatron though, for actually listening to a human girl and losing to Prime by decapitation in 3 seconds. The G1 Megatron would have owned Prime in that situation.

To sum up, I think it was an entertaining movie, but like all Bay movies, one you can watch without turning your brain on. Stop asking questions like how Sentinel Prime knew English when he was brought back to life (yes I know they tapped onto the internet and learnt our languages), and how they actually wanted humans to be involved in the rebuilding of Cybertron, and you might have a good time with this movie. For me, I say the only way ahead is to reboot the series, and bring back the old school designs. Thanks for reading! :)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

GE2011: Vote For The Right Reasons


The lead up to the GE has left me deep in thoughts on a daily basis, especially when I read about comments posted by other Singaporeans though my Facebook wall, my Twitter time line, and through other popular news agencies such as Yahoo which facilitate user interaction through boards and feeds. I have never been really passionate about politics, but the views of many fellow citizens have raised many reflection points, and I have decided to share my personal views here.


First, a disclaimer. As a civil servant, it might seem that I am pro-PAP but his is not entirely true. To me, the PAP alone does not reflect the government. Although they have been the consistent ruling party, it does not matter because ultimately it is the people inside who make the difference. The ministers and MPs make the laws and policies, so by supporting or slamming the PAP, either way it does not make much sense without examining the individuals who make up the party. However, I do agree that having a one party system will led to complacency and arrogance and thus challenge from any opposition party should always be welcomed. The opposition reflects the concerns that Singaporeans have and keeps the ruling party on its toes, since the voices of the people can often fall onto deaf ears should one's head get too high.

Voices of the People

Unfortunately, that is often the source of complications as well. The voices of the people are often centred around livelihood issues, such as the high cost of living, and unemployment due to competition with foreign talent. These are 2 of the most common issues being discussed and brought up everyday. And rightfully so. These are critical issues and it concerns you and me. Like any other Singaporean, we can't help but complain about how hard it is to get a HDB flat or to own a car these days. These are very real problems and I have no qualms about it being the most discussed topics. But what I want to say is that governing the country does not only mean serving the people by reducing their financial burden. Sure we can make use of the national reserves to nationalise the transport system or give more funds to lower the costs of living, such as tax reductions, rebates, etc. But at what expense? The thing I am concerned about is the fact that many opposition parties are trying to rally people solely on answering their immediate needs with regards to these factors. To me, these are short term solutions which will most likely make use of reserves to satisfy the people and give false impressions that they are being taken care of. It would be more comprehensive and persuasive, if they can propose long term solutions to perpetual problems.

Pulling the Heart Strings

I was reminded by a Twitter friend that politics involves passion and emotions as well. That's why all the opposition parties, as well as the PAP, organise rallies and try to answer to the most heart burning issues raised by the people. They try to pull in the crowd, and target their heart strings. From many perspectives, this is the right strategy being applied. People vote based on how much they are influenced, and here is where the charismatic speakers come in useful. The problem here is not many of them address how these problems came to be in the first place. The easy way out is naturally to criticise the current existing systems, attack the power holders, and make promises of change, should they get elected. So what issues of change can they bring?

Foreign Talent

Many of the topics being spoken are often the negative side effects of something more fundamental to Singapore's overall success. But without a macro viewpoint, one can often miss out on the strategic intent. For example, the need for foreign talent. The root problem? First, our declining national birthrate. We don't have enough numbers to replace the ageing population. Second, we need to tap onto foreign resource pools. This is how we improve, and upgrade our standards. Don't forget that in fact, just a few generations ago all our forefathers were “foreign talents”, and look at how they helped to develop Singapore to what she is now. Comparing to our neighbours whom have shut the door towards external influence, we have embraced western standards, developments, even culture, and look at how far that has brought us. To me, Singapore's achievements are nothing short of spectacular, and we ought to celebrate the diversity and reflect what it means to be Singaporean.

But many complain about the loss of the Singapore spirit, and that it does not feel like home any more. Questions are raised about what we are truly defending, and whether it is worth doing so. It is easy to target the petty differences between us and them, but take time to think about whether it is us who need them, or them who need us more. I totally agree that the differences may be frustrating some times. How many times have we heard about Stompers complaining about the lack of customer service or bad attitude of Chinese Nationals here in Singapore? These are real cases, and I have no doubts about it since I am sure most of us would have some related stories to share as well. But then again, think about how far we have advanced. The education and living standards in Singapore have risen tremendously the past few decades. Everybody has the best interest of their children at heart. As a parent, I would give my daughter the best education I can afford. Singaporeans are now more educated, richer, and expect better quality of life. This is, of course, something we should once again be proud of. But couple this fact together with the low birth rate, and you will realise that very soon, we will not have people to serve in the service and support sectors. Look around you today. I dare say that the majority of people working in the lesser paid service industries are foreigners. These are the very people we complain about. Just spare a thought and think about my question and who needs who more.

The Other End

Of course, there is another end to that spectrum. Highly paid and sometimes arrogant, these talents form the other end of the resource pool. The reason why we need them should be fairly obvious as well, but can also be ironically blinding for those who are directly affected. Yes, they take up valuable positions and it can be frustrating for Singaporeans who expect to take up that appointment and pay-slip. Graduates find it harder to compete with them, and I sincerely understand their predicament. I myself, often lament the fact that I am not as smart as the scholars and hence have to work doubly hard just to remain in the same rat race (though this analogy is somewhat flawed). That is the price that we have to pay for living in a meritocracy based society. Yes, it is true that one of Singapore's critical success factors is that we award those who work hard and have shown merit through capabilities and potential. That is the official answer that the government has provided. If you work hard enough and obtain the results you desire, you will get a satisfying and rewarding job. I know it sounds superfluous, but that's the way the world goes. It is an aggressive, competitive and realistic world, but the assuring thing is that many Singaporeans are capable of delivering success and have shown that it can be done.

Cost of Living

Honestly, I do not have the numbers to back me up but I believe that the rising cost of living does not just affect Singaporeans. It is an international issue, and one that is comprised of many external factors which cannot be predicted, such as oil prices, natural disasters and other global incidents. Internally, we are also affected by issues beyond the influence of the government, for example freehold property prices, education fees, etc. I am not sure how much relief or reductions the government can bring about, hence my apprehension on promises made by opposition parties on this matter. Personally, my sentiments are that Singaporeans generally lead good comfortable lives. We currently have the lowest employment rate in 3 years, and the iPad 2 gets sold out within 24hrs. Of course, this is just a reflection on the middle-to-high income group of Singaporeans. What the opposition parties need to do is to target those who really need our help. That is, the less fortunate and needy Singaporeans who cannot afford gadgets like you or me. On the contrary, I feel that the PAP had done a pretty decent job in closing the gap between the middle and low income groups. Various grants and subsidies are provided for these groups of people, and more often than not policies such as the CPF medical schemes help to provide for some baseline financial coverage. I understand this is subjective and not everyone can gets fair treatment, but will there ever be a perfect solution? The important thing is for the people's needs to be assessed on a iterative level, and for the responsible authorities to fill up the cracks once they appear.

Highly-paid Ministers

Another issue close to my heart being discussed (or bashed) online is the high salaries of the ministers. Like many others, my initial reaction was outrage. I was furious. As civil servants to the public, shouldn't they be working for a minimal fee to begin with? Those were my feelings when it was first brought to light on how much they earned, especially when comparisons were made between our President and the US President Barack Obama. However, after a few rounds of thinking and reflection, I understood how it became the way it is now. Allow me to try and rationalise.

Firstly, we want the best people to fill up the ministerial appointments. Agree? These people better have the credentials, experience, and abilities to show for it. More importantly, they must have the good of people in their hearts. These are the very people we elected as leaders, to come up with the laws and policies necessary to move Singapore forward, to gain success, and ultimately bring good quality life to Singaporeans. Look at the current ministers we have. Examine their previous portfolios and you will realise that many were excellent performers in their own fields of expertise and domain areas. There are outstanding lawyers, eye surgeons, President award winners and overseas scholars with proven track records. The CEO of a bank makes millions dollars a year, and I believe many of these ministers can earn equally much out of the Parliament. Before you slap me, I know that managing a bank and serving the nation are two different things. My point here that you cannot expect good and successful individuals to drop whatever they are doing, and to lose 70% of their original pay to become a public servant. We can wish for such saints to appear, but all of us are human and have to take care of family members and other materialistic needs. Let's just try and imagine this: You have been successful your entire life.You have been through excellent schools, obtained outstanding grades, and you have reached the pinnacle of your career. You bring in millions of dollars home each year, and you are well respected for your work and contribution to society. Decision point: Would you sacrifice your personal time, current pay scale, and overall personal privacy to contribute to the nation as a politician? Yes perhaps, but think about it carefully and you will realise it takes nothing less than 100% commitment to enter into politics.

Secondly, the reason why the Singaporean government has been pivotal in the success of the nation is that we have straight, non corrupt ministers. This is a known fact, and official results from an international survey states that we are one of the most non-corrupt countries in the world. There are a number of factors contributing to this and I do not attribute it entirely to the high salaries that ministers receive. But just look at how much attention other counties receive for negative press on their state figures. Resignations are always mentioned, but one wonders how much thought is being put on succession plans when somebody leaves. I just want to end this point by saying that I do believe the figures that ministers receive need to be revised and greater transparency be included, but on the whole, Singaporeans must understand that to attract the best people, we need to give them their deserved credit. Subsequently, those who have proven themselves unworthy of the position must face the cut and get replaced, which brings me to my next point.

The Cracks

I stress again that I am not defending the PAP nor the government. I am just making my points based on logical, critical thinking because it puzzles me how these points can be made to sway and influence voters. Perhaps it is easiest, to target these cracks which apparently seem to undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of the government. These are the incidents which are always brought up in online discussions, and used in the hope of inciting anger and to demand for change. These hot topics include the YOG expenditure, the flooding, and the Mas Selamat escape. I do not want to spend too much time discussing on them since they are again of a subjective nature and everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But for cases such as the floods, can you really blame anyone? Would an opposition led party have prevented it or reacted with appropriate preventive or counteractive measures? Would a different Home Affairs Minister have strengthened the toilet windows, made personal routine inspections around the detention centre to prevent Mas Selamat from escaping? Would this minister also come up with a brilliant scheme to capture him, when both the SPF and SAF could not determine that his hiding place was actually in his relative's home? I am doubtful.

Right Man Right Job

It is easy to point fingers and expect reactive measures to be taken when mistakes are made. More often than not, Singaporeans are not a forgiving lot especially when their peace and tranquillity are disturbed. When shit hits the fan, names to be axed will be thrown around to appease those who feel that Singapore deserves more qualified and efficient leaders. In the Mas Selamat case, my life was certainly put into chaos that month due to work demands. I was worried for the safety of my family members, with a terrorist being set loose in Singapore. It was unnerving to say the least, and a tense period for Singaporeans. Nonetheless, I saw the asking of Home Affairs Minister Wong Kang Seng to relieve his job a little too extreme. I agree, that as the head of the ministry, he had the responsibility to answer for the incident. My discomfort was that as minister, he was originally selected due to his abilities and experience. To ask for a suitable candidate to replace him in such an important role, within such a short time seems impossible. This again, brings me back to the point that only the best men and women can be made ministers.

International Relationships

Diplomacy is equally important as deterrence. SM Goh recently mentioned that one of the important roles of the government is to balance the intricacies needed when foreign relations are involved. I see this as another paramount issue, which is never brought up by opposition parties. No surprise, since it is not a heart string and most Singaporeans do not see the importance of such matters in the first place. But looking ahead and thinking a little bit further, this is one of the key concerns that the country has and dedicated people must be involved to manage foreign affairs. Do the members of the opposition parties contesting in the seats understand Singapore's position with our neighbours? Do they even see the threats to Singapore, which were mentioned explicitly in MM Lee's book? I get worried by such issues, since my work requires necessary knowledge on it. But the problems are real, and I hope that we will have capable, intelligent people to lead the front in matters beyond our domestic front.

Change is Good, or is it?

The key point that opposition parties want to bring to the people is that they are agents of change. Change for the better, as their words promise. But of course, change is definite, as well as the only constant. Will the change be a positive or negative one, that is the question. Like what I have mentioned above, the importance of long term benefits out grow the short term solutions, and I do hope that the people can open their eyes and see who they are electing to bring about this change. If somebody as charismatic and influential as Barack Obama has problems bringing about the change that was promised, we should carefully examine the proposed way ahead that these people speak of. For me, it seems like I support the PAP but that is because I am conservative by nature. I am not a gambler, and neither am I a risk taker. I take the known routes, and avoid lesser known roads. This is individual preference and I am not suggesting anyone be the same. Risk management is crucial. If the opposition in my GRC fields what I feel is a capable team and can challenge the current holders, I will gladly attend their rallies. If they convince me, I will vote for them even if the risk is that they have yet to prove themselves. However, until that happens, I shall remain conservative and my vote goes to whoever I can trust to take care of my GRC, and the nation.

Real Battlefield is Here

There are a lot of other issues which I can write and discuss about, but I can never change people's perception of the governing systems and of the ground truth. I would feel particularly disturbed when I read online comments and realise how shallow some people can get. I do not mean this in an offensive elitist manner, but when people associate anything and everything with the government it gets very frustrating as a reader. Most of these issues are not even related to the GE nor the government at all. My consolation is that empty vessels make the most noise, and I get more convinced when the people making these comments cannot get their basic tenses right.

But the real battlefield, I believe, is on the online pitches. The strongest voices are echoed indefinitely through the internet vacuum, as hard as it is to imagine that a few years ago the GE would not have gathered as much attention as now. The fights are going on fast and furious, and who knows how many voters have their decisions determined by Facebook statuses and Twitter RTs. Tin Pei Ling Vs Nicole Seah is another fight watched by millions by the sheer entertainment value it brings. We are living in exciting times, and we can all look forward to change in the near future.

In Conclusion...

I think I have said enough here. Just a reminder that these are my personal comments and beliefs. There is no need to bash or hate me, since it will not change the way I think and rationalise. I do, however, welcome meaningful discussions on the topics I have written about. My final comment will be that hopefully all voters understand the impact and consequences a wrong decision can bring. To vote based on untrue assumptions or in blind faith for the sake of change, and expecting good results is naive. PAP is not the only answer, but make sure the ones you choose are able to deliver what you expect from a world class goverment.

If you have read this far, thank you for your time and let us hope for Singapore to remain as successful as she is now for the next century. Majulah Singapura!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rena Vs Sean: Final Round!

It's about time for a rematch. Featuring Rena vs Sean, in the final fight to end all disputes about who's the boss of fighting games! Seriously, it's been a while since our last match, so this time we're going to duke it out (after I get some practice of course). Hope you'll enjoy watching our fights!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Movie Review: Sucker Punch

I haven't got much time for movies lately. If anyone can believe it, my last movie was Inception. And I can't even remember what was the one before it. Possibly Ironman 2 if my memory serves me right. So, the movies that I do get to watch in the theaters in full HD and surround sound glory are the ones which I really want to watch badly. Inception was one, and so was Sucker Punch. I wrote a lengthy review of Inception back then, and I believe Sucker Punch deserves one of its own.

As usual, it's not going to be spoiler free. If you haven't seen the movie yet and plan to do so, please go now and come back once you're done. I will be referencing the movie itself a lot, and chances are that you're going to get lost and lose me. So I say again, stop reading if you're going to watch the movie. Instead of a normal review, I'm actually taking up more of a crtitic's role instead. I'll voice my opinions of the movie, rather than explain about the intricacies of the plot, and of course, it is going to be subjective as well.

The story revolves around protagonist Baby Doll, who was sent to the asylum for the criminally insane, after being framed by her step father for killing her younger sister. There, the orderly Blue Jones gets paid by the step father to arrange for Baby Doll to be lobotomised, so as to prevent her from saying anything against him to the police. As you can see, the world's not treating Baby Doll very well, and the only way her mind can cope with this reality is for her to escape to one that is more...... acceptable. This is where she creates an altered reality, where she gets sold to a brothel instead, where exotic dancers ply their trade and sell their bodies under their mobster manager, Blue.

From this reality, Baby Doll can enter a third reality when she dances. Anyone who watches her dance will enter into a trance, and basically all the action fantasy scenes take place here. In this reality, Baby Doll dresses up like a Japanese school girl, gets armed with a Katana, a handgun, and kicks everythings' ass. From here, plot doesn't really matter anymore, because not many things will make sense and the more questions you have, the less you're going to enjoy the show. It seemed as though Zack Snyder was just listening to fanboys and otakus talking about their dream action scenes, and put them all together in one movie, complete with girls in short skirts and machine guns. The very first time Baby Doll dances, she gets a welcome fight with 3 huge ass demon Samurai, complete with gatling guns and all. This fight alone (my favourite by the way), kicked so much ass it really set my expectations high for the rest of the movie.

The rest of the scenarios created in the 3rd reality were outrageously fun too and had the best of everything a comic book fan wanted. Zombie WWII soldiers, human piloted mecha, knights in armor, orgres, fire breathing dragons, machine gun mounted planes, cybernetic robots, rocket packs, exploding trains, etc. Really, everything that spells action can be found in this movie. The special effects and CG were done really well, and so is the awesome music. Everything fits in and it's exactly what you'd expect from Znyder. I thought the fights could have been better and perhaps more Matrix inspired, but then again it wouldn't have been too original. I'm not talking about slow motion stuff, but really just more kung-fu stuff. No complains about the visuals and it's pretty much the best of what Hollywood has to offer, period.

Some how, the rest of the girls in the brothel who were conspiring with Baby Doll were able to enter this 3rd reality as well. At first I thought it was all in her mind and she imagined everything, since the girls were still doing other tasks in the second reality, which is part of Baby Doll's figment of imagination anyway. But later in the film, there were incidents which showed that the girls knew what was happening in the 3rd reality. For example, Rocket's conversation with sister Sweet Pea back in the train scenario. This really just complicates the issue without giving any actual explanations. In The Matrix or Inception, part of the fun of watching the movie was trying to comprehend how reality is fabricated in that universe. In Sucker Punch, don't think too much cause it's not going to make too much sense. The dots are there, but it's not connected. There are too many questions to raise about the connections of the different realities, such as the existence of the man who gave Baby Doll the weapons. Is he real..... or not? Does dying in the 3rd reality mean you die in the other realities as well? But isn't everything just a imagination in Baby Doll's mind? Well, I'm not sure whether we'll ever find out the answers but I guess it's not that important.

I do like how the various realities are connected to each other though. For example, the doctor performing the lobotomy coming in 5 days time becomes the High Roller, coming to claim Baby Doll's virginity instead. The therapist becomes the dance instructor, and a splendid performance by Blue who transforms from the orderly to the brothel running mobster. The 5 item checklist thing did seem a little cliche to me, but perhaps keeping that part simple was key in connecting the realities together. However, the tragic side is that there's a huge chunk of wasted potential here. What could have been polished into a gem was somewhat neglected. The plot ended off too abruptly too me, and I was expected Baby Doll to dance again in order to find out the last mystery item, instead of the sudden realisation that it wasn't her story. I was disappointed to say the least. Another complaint is that the movie, already not friendly for the young ones to to its themes, would really have benefited if it was rated R instead. Instead of trying to appeal to a wider audience for the money, an R rating would mean more blood, sex, violence, and it's sorely missing in this movie. It has everything in place, but you don't even see the scenes where Amber and Blondie get shot in the head. The only heads you'll see being cut apart are the samurai and the robots. A huge disappointment in my opinion. I'm not a violent freak or anything, but appropriate violence can be very entertaining, especially when you're already talking about a movie about zombie killing french maids/school girls/military women from a brothel. Oh I love the girls' costumes by the way. You can see how each of them differ according to popular male fetishes. Nice.

To sum up, I'd give the movie a 6.5 out of 10. Entertaining yes, but ultimately falls short due to the wasted potential and the gap filled plot. Granted, I'll pay the full price just for the Oni Samurai scene. If only more development was given to the other girls they won't appear so flat and forgettable. Other than Baby Doll and perhaps Sweet Pea, the other girls were really there just for eye candy. One last thing I'd like to add is that the movie reminded me a lot about Final Fantasy VII. From the theme about altering realities to self sacrifice, it just screamed FFVII to me. FFVII main character Cloud had a traumatic past and altered his own memories. Crisis Core FFVII main character Zack sacrificed himself for Cloud because like Baby Doll, he realised he wasn't the story to be told. Really, the similarities don't end there. The train which was heading to the city, was almost exactly like the train to Midgar in the opening sequence of the classic PS game. Perhaps I'm thinking too much, but it just shows the gaming fanboys will totally dig this movie. 6.5 isn't a high score, but I'll most likely get the Bluray disc when it gets released. Just for those kick ass moments. :)
By the way, do click on the images you see on this blog post to download the wide screen wall paper or the posters of the leading ladies. If you're visiting from Facebook, you can check out the direct page via the link below. Thanks for reading! "If you don't believe in something, you'll fall for anything."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 8

Final day of the tour and the last video of the series (phew). Really, no sight seeing except for taking a few shots in our room, and some last minute shopping at the Narita Airport Mall. We had a great time, and hopefully, Japan will bounce back from the impact of the Touhoku Earthquake and we will definitely visit again soon. :)

Tokyo 2011 - Day 7

Day 7, 27th February 2011: Race day for the Tokyo Marathon. Photos were taken from the official photographers along the race route. For more about the race and my personal comments, check out :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 6

Day 6 was spent at the Meiji Shrine at Harajuku, followed by a meet up with my twitter friends at Sunshine City. We had a fun and memorable time, and hopefully we can meet up again in the future. :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 5

Day 5 was spent at Tokyo Big Sight where the Tokyo Marathon expo was held. Later half of the day was spent at Odaiba, where we walked around the area facing the sea and the magnificent scenery surrounding the Rainbow bridge. This spot has been a staple on our itinerary for the past few visits. 2 more videos to go~!

Tokyo 2011 - Day 4

Day 4 of of the trip. Unfortunately, Japan is now in a pinch due to the Touhoku earthquake and tsunami which happened last week. We pray for the people and that Japan makes a speedy recovery soon. The day itself was largely spent at the Asakusa area, where we visited the stores and the temple, followed by shopping at the Ueno area. :)

Tokyo 2011 - Day 3

3rd day of the trip, second day of the package and we're off to Disney Sea. First time any one of us there, and we even managed to meet our friend Yuka for a cup of Starbucks Coffee! To be honest I think I've had enough of Mickey mouse for now. :p

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 2

Well, basically the entire of day 2 was spent in Tokyo Disney Land, and it's only half of the 2 day package.  It's our 3rd time there, but Rena's first. We watched 2 full parades and it was pretty awesome. I'm not impressed by the characters, but by the sheer amount of effort each of the performers put in, as well as the magnitude of the parade. It's hard not to be happy in Disney Land some times. :)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 1

At first, I wanted to write full blog posts on all the different days we spent in Tokyo, so that I can properly document everything down. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, where we went, and how to managed to go everywhere in Tokyo by ourselves. But then, due to lack of time (and effort), I've decided to post the photos up first (on Facebook), and then do up the videos to show the highlights. I guess the video more or less encapsulates the best of our trip, though the lack of text will have to be made up with by means of the songs I've selected. I'll probably give a final post about the trip after the last video, which I aim to finish by the month. So without any further ado, I bring to you the first video in the Tokyo 2011 series. Enjoy and leave your comments! :)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Tokyo Marathon, complete! 東京マラゾン、完成しました!

After much anticipation and excitement during the build up towards the actual race day, I've finally completed the Tokyo Marathon 2011 last Sunday, 27th February 2011. The trip to Japan was part of a family holiday, but I'll leave that to another upcoming blog post. This one will concentrate on the event and I'll write about how the event ran, and my feelings after completing it. For a start, I registered for the run around 5 months ago. 350,000 applications for 36,000 slots and the runners were selected via a balloting system. Luckily for me, the quota for foreign runners seem to be more than the ones catered for the native Japanese runners, and I was delighted to be selected. Paid up about $250 dollars online, and I secured my slot for the race. I didn't really had much time nor chance to train for it due to study and work commitments, but at least I cleared 2 half marathons (in a week) before flying.

2 days before the race, I picked up my race kit from Tokyo Big Sight, which is a pretty impressive convention centre. The race expo was held in 2 halls, and it was huge. There were many stations such as Nike, Adidas, Asics, as well as other running merchandise and stations promoting other international marathons. Of course, I spent quite a couple of hours there grabbing the official stuff as souvenirs, taking freebies, and had a good time there. The DJ at the Nike booth even interviewed me and I gave answers in mixed Japanese and English. Must have sounded strange but hey they understood me :). Also met up with some of the other Singaporean runners I got to know through the Sgrunners forum and took a group shot. It was pretty nice meeting other Singaporeans so far away from home. I met up with some of them who were also staying in my inn at Ikebukuro, and made our way to the start line together on race day.

Start point was at Shinjuku. There were really a lot of people, but everything was managed and organised, and I never felt trapped in human traffic. Huge signs helped with orientation to the baggage deposit area, and it only took 5 seconds for me to get my stuff taken care of. Soon it was time to head off to my designated start area, which was the last and final waiting area. I guess it's due to the fact that I stated my end time to be 5hrs 30 minutes, and that's considered pretty slow. Well, I did finish the run in around that time, as you can see from the result in the table below. Not a fantastic timing, but it's my new personel best. I aimed for it and got it, and it's over 30 minutes faster than my previous run at Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2010 last December.

It took 15 minutes after the gun went off, till I finally crossed the start line. Yeah I was that far away. But still, I managed to see the Marathon committee chairman and waved to him on the podium. One of the most amazing things about the run was that from the starting 1st km to the 42th km, the road was brimming with supporters. To the Japanese, it seemed as if the run was a trial for the runners, and they were there to cheer them on. In fact, the entire run was broadcasted live on TV. The Singapore marathons pale in comparison in this aspect. When I run along the expressways during the SCSM, it felt like the drivers along the roads were jeering us for obstructing the roads. Such a huge difference it's pretty sad when I think about it. Anyways, I'm really really really impressed by the Japanese supporters. They came with huge signboards, wore costumes, never stopped cheering, stuck out their hands to give you a hi-5, and even gave out free supplements! I had sweets, bread, and even coke. It was amazing. You could basically eat your way to the end and hi-5 thousands of supporters.

The route was a magnificent one as well, taking us to fantastic tourist attractions such as the imperial palace, Asakusa Sensoji, and the Tokyo Tower. I wanted to stop and take photos but I only had my phone with me. Speaking of photos, there were countless photo pitstops along the way, hence the many photos you see me uploading here. I think it's a great idea and the local runs should start having this instead of randomly deployed stealth photographers catching us with shack faces. With the official stops, you can pose and at least look less tired than you really are.

And it was great fun running with the Japanese runners. Many of them came in funny costumes and I lost track of the number of times I laughed when I found out who I was running along side with. I ran together with Spider-Man, Ultraman, Son Goku, Frieza, Mario, Luigi, Jesus Christ (carrying a huge crucifix I'm not kidding), countless animals, ninjas, samurais, and Disney characters. It was a delight just looking around at who's running. There was a girl in a panda suit and so many people were cheering her on. Along the route, there were also many many performances by dancers and bands. Great stuff. In terms of supplements, they gave amino drinks at regular stations and it tasted really good. I'm particularly impressed by the food stations. They gave chocolate and red bean paste bread, raisins, bananas, and even isotonic sweets! I was in heaven when I ate the chocolate. Almost wanted a second helping....

The end point was equally efficient. The runners were channeled to pits where we were handed out drinks, oranges, fruit bars, and the finisher medal and towel. Although the run was attended by so many people, everything was in place and it was organised with clockwork precision. The only complain I had was that the public transport from the end point was pretty limited and I queued up over 30 minutes just to get on the train, which was packed like sardines. I had to stand for another 40 minutes on the train back to Ikebukuro via the JR Yamanote line. Luckily I didn't really stink (too much) and I generally kept away from the Japanese girls in my carriage. My heart would break if they held their noses and walked away. :p

All in all, the run was most definitely the defining moment in the trip, and dare I say in my short running stint. I bought lots of goodies as you can see from the expo, and I did it because I figure I won't be coming back for the run anytime soon. But after the race, my opinion has some what changed. If possible, I would want to return to Tokyo for another go at the marathon again. The climate, conduct of the run, and most of all the people all made this a very memorable trip for me. No regrets at all, and I encourage all runners to try and attend it if possible. It's very convenient, and everything gets explained in English. Feel free to ask me for advice if you're interested, and perhaps we can go again next year. I hope you enjoyed the photos and this write up, and look forward to the rest of the entries on the holiday with Rena and Mabel soon. Thanks! 東京マラゾンは楽しかった!できれば、必ずまた行きます!

(yup that's me with a super shack face :p)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Living my second childhood

I've been wanting to talk about this topic for a while, and since I've only got 1 blog post for this month I thought it would be a nice closure to talk about it, before we hit February. Once again, a very low post count month. I blame the tight working schedule and the start of the new semester. I just spent Saturday & Sunday falling sick and working on 2 online modules. Well, the good thing about online lectures is that I can turn the lecturer off when he gets boring. Yay.

Anyway, back to topic. Many people (including myself) feel that I'm still a big kid at heart. I still collect toys and figures, watch Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, the occasional anime, build Gundams, read manga, and play lots of video games. Some how I live by one of my favourite quotes of all time: "You don't stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing." Some how, I've never really progressed out of that stage. The stage where I was fascinated Japanese mecha, masked heroes in spandex, or transforming trucks and exploding ninjutsu. All these kept me mesmerised through both my childhood and adulthood. These feelings never fade, and has remained close to my heart even as I venture into parenthood.

And contrary to my initial beliefs, parenthood actually gave me a chance to relive my days as a young boy. Not from the views of a baby or toddler, but from the perspective of a father. Teaching elementary topics such as numbers and alphabets to Rena something made me remember things that I've never knew I experienced. Memories of my own would flood me as I do things together with Rena. Memories of me and my own parents, doing the same thing 30 years ago. Sure the ages and situations are different, but it's surprising how little trivial things can trigger memories from such a long time ago. And these are important, important memories.

It seems like I'm going through the whole process of learning ABCs too, only this time I'm the one imparting the knowledge and handing over what I've learned to the next generation. They say the best form of learning is to teach, and it's amazing how much of an experience it can be, just by trying to impart something as simple as the alphabets. I was watching clips from Sesame Street on youtube with Rena, and it struck me how we are connected through our attraction to common characters such as Big Bird and Elmo, although we're one generation apart. The characters which I loved so long ago, are the very same ones Rena loves now.

Even building simple Lego bricks brought the memories flooding. It was a personal fave, and while Rena prefers the more high tech toys these days, she still spends a fair amount of time on building her own creations, just like her old dad did decades ago. My conclusion and regret is that there wasn't any iPhone or iPad 30 years ago.

I can keep going, but I don't want to be a nag. To conclude, I just want to say that parenthood to me is an essential part of life. It brings us to the next chapter, and completes the overall experience that one should receive out of life. I'm not saying you should share my view, but that's how I look at it personally. To me, it gives me a chance to re-live my past, and a second chance to do what I didn't get to accomplish the first time. Sure I didn't get to fulfil some of my childhood dreams. But who's to say Rena can't share and do it with me this time? :)